Today goes a little deeper into last week’s thoughts on old regrets. I said that I didn’t tend to do this as much as the other two, and that is true, but when I DID let my brain wander this way, it was not good. Deepak says “Old wounds get a new life when we think of hard times in the past.” I experienced this when thinking of painful traumatic events from my childhood. I had some not so great years growing up. Sometimes these memories creep up at the most unexpected times. When they did I was literally reliving them and I would get nauseous and get an uncomfortable feeling in my body that is hard to describe. This also happened when I would think about the occasions in my teenage years, some very death defying, scary times, and suddenly my body is reacting. It’s an odd feeling if you’ve never experienced it. According to Deepak these experiences can be healed by being in the present moment.
Broken relationships was another area of reliving old hurts the would come back and haunt me occasionally. Something would trigger a memory and suddenly I’m back in that place reliving an old hurt. Sometimes they feel like they just happened even though it happen over 30 years ago! And of course the old hurt that was the most recent and most devastating was the injury itself. I wrote the following in my notebook:
Drug reaction/physical pain/missed years
There was a lot of sadness and anger in those words. So much time lost with my kids, family and friends. And time lost from doing all the things I loved. I could not, and would not dwell on this old hurt. I know now, I can write about it and tell my story without being there.
These experiences all had lessons to teach me. In the case of my injuries, I had to learn it twice. If you read My Story, you know that I had TWO episodes that took me out of commission for extended times. It was like I didn’t learn it well enough the first time around so the universe said “let’s try this again!” I got it now, I promise. Because after the first time, I realized it was a half ass recovery really. I was physically a little better, and I learned a little about being appreciative of life, but not the total transformation that happen the second time. There were more lessons to be learned. I can see that now.
I would love to hear your comments! And don’t forgot to subscribe to my blog! Thanks for being here!
At this point, one thing was clear. I needed a jumpstart on my spirituality practice. Over the years my practice changed. As a child, I had no practice whatsoever, coming from a home of agnostics. Even that has changed as my parents and our personal journey has evolved. But I’m not here to tell their story, only mine. My husband was raised Catholic. We did not discuss religion much at all when we were dating. I was pretty clear about my agnostic ways, but there was no real discussion there. Until, we were expecting our first child. Suddenly it was very important to my husband that we raise our children Catholic and that I also convert. I agreed to take the classes. I actually found myself drawn to it. Looking back I probably would have been drawn to any spiritual practice at that point just because I was a little starved for it but didn’t realize what I was missing. So, for years we went to our local Catholic Church, enrolled the kids in CCD classes and I joined a playgroup with the moms of the church. There was a lot of good that came out of those years. I certainly needed the moms. As a new mom not knowing many women in my neighborhood (as I was working up until my pregnancy) I needed their help and support. I was the only new mom of the group. I got recommendations on preschools, advice on parenting and the friendship of seeing these women every week for about 2 years. Over time though, my husband and I came to have dissatisfaction with organization as a whole and could no longer stay. We then attended a local Methodist Church for a few years which all of us really liked. I found it VERY welcoming and even joined a ladies bible study. It was at this time that I began a daily spiritual practice of praying everyday, reflecting upon my day and bible readings. Over time, the leadership of that church changed and our kids were much older and slowly, we stopped going altogether. I continued my daily practice for a few years after we stopped attending church service. As I was suffering through all the pain of my situation, I continued this practice but I was craving so much more. With this in mind, I devoted a month to Spiritually.
My Quotation: “Spiritual growth involves giving up the stories of your past so the universe can write a new one.”
Pray Every Day
At the time, that was it. My practice would grow tremendously over time. I would now include my meditation under spirituality because I don’t feel like they should be separated. At the time though, this seemed right.
I feel like prayer comes in a different form for me today. Every morning I start my day with a 10-20 mediation. Sometimes it’s another gratitude practice. Thanking the universe for what I have. Prayer can be my walking meditation in nature or the quiet moments in yoga when everything is coming together and I’m being extremely mindful. These are all spiritual practices to me. I will go much deeper into this later when I began to grow in my journey.
I’m sure you have heard the miraculous changes that occur with a regular gratitude practice. I desperately needed this. When I sit down every night to write my five things I’m grateful for that day, it is nearly impossible to be upset or wallow in my own misery. There are ALWAYS things to be grateful for. Even when things aren’t going well. There is always something. Some days are harder than others to find those things I’ll admit, but they are there. Even if it’s just the beautiful birds at my feeder. I don’t find myself wanting more stuff anymore. That desire is gone. I have plenty. When you start to be grateful for what you have everything shifts.
Do you have a spiritual practice? If you would like to begin I suggest the following. This is not a one size fits all situation. It’s very personal, so do what you feel is best for you. Some things to explore.
Your local church
Daily Gratitude Practice
Please feel free to comment below! Thanks for being here!
Again, why would I not do this? This was another mental
health/coping skill I was determined to work on. For years, I did some volunteering. I was very active in my children’s schools, with PTA and in
the classroom and I would donate clothes and food to various
organizations. But I never
volunteered for something I was truly passionate about. Obviously, I cared about my children’s
school, but I needed to do more. This month’s resolution was:
Do for Others
My Quotation: “Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person”
Simply volunteer, but in a BIG way. Later in my journey I work through how
I came upon a lot of the groups I’m involved in now and how that became a HUGE
part of my life. I will explain that more later. But at the time of my Happiness Project I immediately
thought of working with seniors in some way. I had met quite a few seniors in my time at the exercise
classes I was attending. They are
the most caring, honest people I had ever met. I loved them!!
So, I researched some opportunities within my county and found a meal
delivery service for seniors that cannot get out to a senior center for
lunch. I signed up to deliver
meals once a month to start. This
turned out to be just what I needed.
Volunteering is another stress reliever. I was still in quite a bit of pain at this time and driving
was uncomfortable. But I put it
aside when I was delivering. I
loved meeting all the seniors and having a little chat with them about their
day. And I was being USEFUL. They were helping me and didn’t know
it. Volunteering has come to mean
so much more to me now. I have a
greater awareness of myself and my purpose. At the time, this was just the beginning. I was thrilled to be doing anything
other than focusing on my body and pain.
Volunteering can be contagious too I think. Shortly after I started, my Dad then
began delivering meals as well and then my mom joined the Red Cross and started
working blood drives. All positive
effects, on me, the people I was helping and in my immediate family. Looking outside myself and my own
problems is huge. When you are
volunteering, you are distracted and you thinking of others. The other benefit for me was the social
interaction. I had interaction
now, more than the year before, but I knew I needed more. This filled that need as well. Social connection is another indicator
of longevity. We are learning now
that low social connection can be as detrimental on our health as smoking or
being obese! Volunteering gets you
out into the world for the benefit of all.
Have you thought about volunteering more? Try the following;
Research your local government website for opportunities
Think about what you are interested in and research from
Are there opportunities at your church? Or school?
I’d love to hear about how you are volunteering! Please
comment below! Thanks for being
In one of my previous posts I talked about finding strategies for good mental health. One of them if you remember, was Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself. That really caught my attention and was very different from the other strategies. It went on to say “Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.” This was aha moment for me. Immediately, out of nowhere, I remembered that eight years earlier I had done a Happiness Project after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. I ran to my bookshelf for it and there it was. Just waiting for me. The goal of The Happiness Project is the same as the strategy I was working on. Get to know who you are and what makes you happy! In addition to finding what truly makes you happy the other side of that is to STOP with all the things that other people find fun and you don’t. For me, I don’t find any of the of following fun; Skiing or any cold weather activity, watching sports, and more recently drinking alcohol (gasp!) and going out to eat. One of the big lessons of that book was just because someone else finds something fun doesn’t mean I have to. I don’t let people talk me into things I know I won’t enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t try new things. I just am way more in touch with myself. I know now what I consider fun and honestly, I’ve always known, but now I’m being AUTHENTIC. I love going to concerts and music in general, I love reading, cooking, planning, hot sunny weather, fitness and exercise, going to museums, and the arts in general. There’s more but those are the big ones. And guess what, not everyone will find those things fun either and that’s ok. It’s all about knowing what makes you happy and doing that. Years ago, when The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was first published I jumped right in. I was 39 years old, loved the book and thought “that looks fun”. Fast forward to 2017, I’m 47 years old and a mess and looking at another Happiness Project for completely different reasons. So, this Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself strategy struck a cord immediately. In my wellness notebook I wrote next to it “Consider doing another happiness project?” And that’s what I did.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, I suggest giving it a read whether you choose to do the project or not. You can find it here. https://amzn.to/2LwcApU Basically once you come up with your resolutions, you choose a quote to keep you motivated and then break the resolution down into actions you will do daily or weekly, for the entire month. My first Resolution, which I started in November of 2017 (again, so thankful for my journaling) looked like this:
This Month’s Resolution: Conquer Fears (take control)
My quotation: “Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen”
Progress with different shoes
Take timed baths
Rebute Fears in Writing (see previous post on ABCDE model)
Get back on my Computer
Taking timed walks and rebuting my fears in writing I’ve talked about already. So, you know where I was headed on those resolutions. Let’s talk about the shoes! Ah, the shoes! I only wore one pair for at least for a year and a half. I’m sure you can guess why! Fear that any other shoes would hurt my back! I couldn’t even wear what you would call regular athletic shoes. All the technology going on in the bed of shoe would throw my neck out of whack. I still don’t wear them. I’ll admit I’m not wearing heels (yet!) but I wear whatever flats I want. This may seem small and trivial to you, but to me it was a REAL fear. I was afraid of more pain. Period. So, retraining my brain was the goal.
For the next few weeks I will continue to post more about my second Happiness Project going month by month. Hope you will join me!
Have you done a Happiness Project? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below! Thanks for being here!
Once I finished reading Explain Pain and saw my story on the pages, I decided I MUST do what it takes to correct this or I will never feel the way I wanted to. I needed to change my mindset and retrain my brain immediately. Four things were clear in the reading I had done. Those four things were:
Work out the threats
Work on mindfulness and coping skills
Let’s start with working out the threats. According to the authors “Fear or
anticipation of pain may be enough to prevent changes in returning to
normal.” Well, at that time I most
certainly had fears over many things and I was avoiding them like the
plague. Here is a my list from
some of the fears listed in the book that were spot on for me:
The seriousness of my situation
Making it worse
Not being able to work
Not being able to look after my parents
So, in addition to my daily pain, I was constantly thinking and worrying about all of the above. This made my brain think I was under threats all the time, which just increased the pain. It’s a truly vicious cycle. To avoid that cycle I needed to do the following:
Confront my fears
Which is what I set out to do. And still do! Most recently I tried a new exercise class. This falls under the “making it worse” category. I used to get so worked up over new movements. For example, after about one year of exercises class at my therapy center, my trainer added a sculpt class using kettle bells. I wanted to do it, but fear took over. I said “I can’t do that. My back and neck will hurt.” My trainer told me to come and just do the exercises without the kettle bells, just to get used to the movement and get over my fear. And that actually worked. Once I did pick up the weights, there were many tears. I would stand in that class, holding my kettle bell with tears of fear coming down my face. But I did it. Over and over again. Until my brain realized there was no threat, and I realized I wasn’t going to hurt myself. The trick is mental. Let me be clear, I DID feel worse initially. But as my trainer explained to me, this was because I was doing something “new” and my body had to get used to it. It took a long time, but she was right. I thank God she came into my life! No doctor or physical therapist ever explained this to me before and it was exactly what I needed to hear. The combination of reading Explain Pain, then practicing it in class was magical. It was like therapy, not for my body, but for my mind. I was truly retraining my brain. And I could see it was working. And I saw it a year or so later when I started Yoga as well, or anytime I do something new. Remembering, it’s new and it’s ok. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Next was Taking Control. For the longest time I would go from doctor, to physical therapist, to massage therapist, to my trainer and would be sent down a hundred different roads. They would contradict each other in their advice. It was incredibly confusing. At some point I had to take control of the situation and listen to my body. I grew up believing doctors knew everything. I did exactly what they told me to the letter. (Upholder behavior again) I never questioned them, ever. This is one of those not so great traits of being an Upholder. I should have asked more questions of those who were helping me. I should have made my own decisions about my care EARLIER instead of sitting around waiting for one of them to magically cure me.
Again, it was my trainer who started to have me think differently. She was not only physically strong, but mentally, and she built me up to be confident in myself and my decision making to a point I never had before. Just one practitioner saying to me “I don’t know why you are feeling that way.” Or, ” I don’t know why you aren’t getting better.” would send me off the deep end of worry. Now I don’t do that anymore. I’m in control. I realize that practitioners don’t know everything. They are making their best guess but ultimately I’M IN CHARGE of my body and health. This is so freeing!! I no longer am fearful of doctors! Because I don’t look at them like the be all end all that I used to. I listen, I think it through, THEN I act.
Moving on to Having Goals. Hey, there’s a concept!! Did you grow up having goals? I didn’t. Never, of any kind whatsoever. Not academically, not personally, not financially. I didn’t understand how life changing having goals can be. Having goals is how we move through life and get what we want. Otherwise everything just happens “to you”. That’s how I lived the first 44 years of my life. So, I made small goals to start (this will be a huge focus for me later on). For now, my first goal was to take short walks without flare ups to my back or neck. I started with 3 minutes. That’s it. Then I added a minute or two until I worked my way up. I now do regular walks of 30-40 minutes without a problem. I recently walked ALL DAY in New York City and I did have a flare up, but after two days it was gone. And to me, that is still a win.
And the fourth was Becoming Mindful and Learning Coping Skills. Two more things I never had done. My trainer asked me if I ever meditated and I said I had not but I’ve been told many times over the years that I should meditate or “do something about your anxiety”. I never did until having this conversation one on one, with someone I completely trusted and knew was in my corner, 100%. I did a quick google search and found the following article that I printed, cut and pasted into my new wellness notebook that I started when I started my privates with my personal trainer. Little did I know what this notebook would be become over the next two years.
I found “Strategies for Good Mental Health Wellness”. The following are coping skills suggested in dealing with stressful situations.
Time to yourself
It was glaringly obvious the ones I needed to work on. Friendship, Humor, Hobbies, Spirituality. All the others needed some tweaking, but those four were non existent at the time. Those were all things I had in my life before all this happen to me, but had let slide.
The second article I found was “Ten Tips for Better Mental Health” by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Richmond, BC. Here’s the ten:
Make time for family and friends
Give and accept support
Create a meaningful budget
Find strength in numbers
Identify and deal with moods
Learn to be at peace with yourself
I had SO MUCH to work on here. All but Accept Compliments and Find Strength in Numbers were areas that needed VAST improvement.
One more list I found on coping skills that was extremely
helpful. Here we go:
Remember it’s you life
Be proud of surviving
Be realistic, not dramatic
Don’t look for blame
Whoa.. Some big aha’s were in this list for me. Most definitely problem solving, be realistic, not dramatic, develop insight and DO SOMETHING. Yes, this was an important list too. And a lot of these skills I would work on after reading yet another book, but I will get to that later. So, I read Explain Pain, I found out what I needed to do to fix what was happening to me and now I had a jumping off place.
When I look at my notebook from this time in my life it’s like looking at another person as I read what I wrote. But I also see how clear it is, that I am where I am today because of it. Here are my first notes and goals I gave myself.
Find volunteer opportunities
Spend more time with parents
Pay attention to spending
Rekindle friendships/make lunch dates
Read every day
Focus on problem solving
Find humor in my situation
Meditate every day
Maybe get back into gardening and cooking
Consider doing another Happiness Project?
All roads lead to Gretchen Rubin! Ha! I had done a Happiness Project probably eight or so years earlier. I thought maybe I’ll do another because this would be the time. This was the beginning. It would be my starting point of everything that would change my life in the next two years. I’m always still working on myself. As I sit here typing I still occasionally think, “is this going to hurt my neck?” Still fighting the “making it worse” threat. But the difference now is I think it, but I do it anyway and guess what? I’m fine. Maybe a little stiff but fine. In my next few posts I will talk about how I did my Happiness Project and the next book that helped me through this time of learning and healing.
A few years ago, when I was still in the throws of recovery, my personal trainer suggested I read a book called “Explain Pain” by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley. I was at a point where I had gained strength, continued physical therapy, but continued to have significant pain that would send me off emotionally and also keep me from doing more of what I loved to do. Everyone had their theories as to what was going on, but the only person in my life that was up front and honest with me was my trainer. She basically told me I couldn’t “fix the pain I was feeling with exercise”. She was saying it was “in my head” which was true, but not (I explain this below). It was REAL alright and she knew it. She also told me I needed to start meditating or “go talk to someone”. Hmmm, she was telling me I needed a different kind of therapy.
No one had spoken to me this way before about my anxiety. She was brutally honest. It was jarring and I was a bit shocked. I sat there in tears. It felt like some sort of emotional breakthrough. I am FOREVER grateful for her for being this honest with me. For seeing that I needed to hear these things in a way that would wake me up. No one in my family would have ever talked to me this way and if they did I probably would have been so angry with them I wouldn’t have listened anyway. The fact that it came from someone on the outside means I could no longer hide that part of myself. It was obvious to her and she did the right thing by making me confront it.
Two things she suggested immediately was a book called Explain Pain and a meditation app (that I now use every day, religiously, starting the day after she suggested it. Upholder quality at work!) As soon as I began reading Explain Pain everything started to become clear. I was reading mystory. I couldn’t believe it! Finally, I could see myself on the pages and I started to understand. Right from page two it became clear. “When pain persists and feels like it is ruining your life, it is difficult to see how it can be serving any useful purpose. But even when pain is chronic and nasty, it hurts because the brain has concluded, for some reason or another, that you are threatened and in danger and need protecting – the trick is finding out why the brain has come to this conclusion”.
I also learned that stress can make nerve pain worse and that damaged nerves become sensitive to the chemicals you produce when you are stressed. This made perfect sense to me. I was having unbelievable stress and worry at the time when my pain was spreading and getting worse and no one could tell me why. The authors also explained that “things that used to hurt, now hurt more. And things that didn’t hurt before, now hurt”. There I was, right there on the page. Exactly what I experienced. And for the first time, there was an explanation. I was so relieved to see my story in print. Someone gets it! Other identifying statements I read were “It started off so simply and now it has spread” and “No one seems to believe me”. I basically said those exact words. Something else that really hit home for me was that even the FEAR or ANTICIPATION of pain may be enough to prevent changes from returning to normal. Returning to normal was ALL I wanted! Clearly, I needed to figure out how to get over my fear of pain. It was time to take control and work out the threats or feel like this forever. So, I made a decision right then that I will do whatever is suggested to reverse what had happen to me.
Now I had my goals and was motivated to get started. With the understanding that the pain was coming from my brain, not the tissue/nerve damage, I now knew what I needed to work on to get my life back to as normal as possible. In the next few weeks I’m going to break down each of the goals above into what I did.
Are you dealing with chronic pain? Do you have fears of certain movements, re-injuring or making it worse? Surgery, botched surgery? Or other fears? I want to give you a few Action Steps to apply to you own life if you feel like this speaks to your situation. And then over the next few weeks we will talk about the steps above in more detail and I will share what I did in my personal situation. For this week, you could start by:
Decide to take control and work out the threats. Just deciding to do this is a HUGE step. Yay!!
Have a goal. What is it that you want to do more of without pain? Walking, reading, driving, playing with your kids. You decide. But I suggest picking one to start and focusing on that.
Increase activity with slow exposure.
If you would like more information about the type of training I did, you can find my trainer Carrie’s website here. https://pnxsolutions.com/
That’s it for this week!! Seems simply enough, but honestly it’s a big decision and takes strength to move forward. You can do this. After you pick your goal, come back next week and we will start on the “how to’s” and I will tell you what worked for me, what didn’t and what I’m continuing to work on now :). See you then!